Feb. 13 (UPI) — House managers ditched plans to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, once again clearing the way for a possible vote Saturday.
The Senate voted earlier in the morning 55-45 to call witnesses in the proceedings and with Trump attorney Michael van der Veen threatening to request more than 100 depositions, the process was likely to drag on for days, if not longer.
After a brief recess and several bipartisan discussions on the floor, lead House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said he’d revoke his request for witnesses if he could enter a statement by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., into the record.
Raskin sought to subpoena Herrera Beutler in response to a CNN report about a phone conversation between Trump and Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy.
Lawmakers told the cable news channel the two men had an expletive-laden phone call during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in which McCarthy repeatedly asked Trump to call off the attackers.
“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said according to the sources.
Herrera Beutler confirmed details of the conversation in a statement to Twitter late Friday.
“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” she wrote. “McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters.”
With the question of witnesses out of the way, Raskin gave closing arguments Saturday, reiterating House Democrats’ case accusing Trump of inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“President Trump must be convicted for the safety and security of our democracy and our people,” he said.
Trump’s defense team rested their case Friday, using but a fraction of the 16 hours allotted to them to rebut the House impeachment managers’ case against the former president. Democratic managers presented their case over a full two days on the Senate floor.
House impeachment managers spent hours this week presenting what they said was evidence Trump incited a mob of his supporters to breach Capitol Police barriers and attack the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
The violent insurrection left Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick dead, along with four rioters — a woman who was shot by police, a woman who was trampled to death, man who had a heart attack and a man who had a stroke. Two other police officers involved in protecting the Capitol during the attack died of suicide in the days following.
Democrats showed dozens of video clips from the day, many graphic as rioters forced their way into the Capitol building and beat law enforcement officers with a variety of makeshift weapons. Others were seen entering the Senate and House chambers, and going through lawmakers’ offices.
The impeachment managers pointed to Trump’s allegations of election fraud and his rhetoric during a speech in the Ellipse just prior to the Capitol attack as inciting the violence.
“He told them it was their patriotic duty because the election had been stolen and invited them to march to the Capitol,” impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said.
“The president used this speech as a call to arms. It was not rhetorical,” Neguse added. “[Trump] assembled, the mob; he summoned the mob and he incited the mob.”
The defense team, meanwhile, called the impeachment trial a politically motivated “witch hunt” and said Trump never asked his supporters to attack the Capitol to disrupt the Electoral College certification process.
“Nothing in the text [of Trump’s speech] could ever be construed as encouraging, condoning, or enticing unlawful activity of any kind,” lawyer Bruce Castor said Friday, adding that the crowd at the rally prior to the attack was encouraged to “exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically.”
“To claim that the president in any way wished, desired or encouraged lawless or violent behavior is a preposterous and monstrous lie.”
With a supermajority needed to convict Trump — at least 67 votes — it appears unlikely the Senate vote will go against him.
A whip count conducted by The Washington Post shows 40 senators support conviction, 38 oppose it, 20 are open to conviction and two haven’t made definitive statements. The potential votes appear to fall largely along party lines.
If the Senate votes to convict Trump, it would then take a vote on whether to bar him from ever running for office again.
Siege aftermath: damage to historic U.S. Capitol
Capitol Hill police salute the passing of the funeral hearse on Sunday for slain Officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI |